Early in his
career, Christopher Moore staked out his territory. Literally. 'Bloodsucking
Fiends' is a contemporary romantic comedy about vampires set in San Francisco.
It's a slim novel, a fast read and very funny. Moore plays with the reality
of the vampire trope in a modern, urban setting and finds lots to laugh
about, even as dead bodies pile up in the back-alleys. Little did we
know when this novel came out that he was also creating the underpinnings
for more than a few novels to follow.
Wealth and poverty stride side by side on the steep hills and urban hinterlands
of San Francisco. The homeless man who calls himself The Emperor of San
Francisco knows that something's awry, and hares off with his two dogs
in search of a monster. The monster strikes in the heart of the financial
district, taking Jody's life and bringing her into the ranks of the undead.
Tommy Flood left the Midwest to come to San Francisco and start his new
life as a writer. Instead, he finds himself bowling with frozen turkeys
on the midnight shift at a Safeway store. Until he meets Jody, after
which his life will indeed be the stuff of novels.
Economy and comedy make excellent bedfellows in Moore's third novel,
even as he is creating characters we'll encounter in later novels, including
'A Dirty Job', and his latest, 'You Suck', a direct sequel to this novel.
Not that 'Bloodsucking Fiends' requires a sequel; but it's good enough
to make you want one. In swift, sure strokes, Moore creates a believably
supernatural San Francisco, where the man you hand a buck might be the
Emperor and the cute girl on the corner looking frazzled after a hard
day's work might be a vampire. Your Thanksgiving turkey made some lucky
graveyard shift worker's night when he managed to get a strike using
it as a bowling ball. In a world where turkeys can be bowling balls,
anything is possible.
Strong characters pin down the novel. Tommy Flood is the goofy, dreaming,
love-struck writer that all of us either knew or were at some point in
our lives. His dreams of being a writer are likely to be derailed by
both his talent and his new girlfriend Jody, who has this problem with
sunlight. Moore knows how to add the perfect level of detail for each
of the ancillary characters as well, from the members of Tommy's Safeway
graveyard-shift stocking crew to the cops on the trail of some unusual
murders to the Jody's old boyfriend, a Shit-with-a-capital-S to the darned
vampire himself, slowly revealed. He works so well that you're unlikely
to understand just how well until or unless you look back and try to
figure out just what was so good about the novel.
The plot here is perfectly linear and pared down to the bare nubbins,
but Moore's humorous approach and generous characterizations keep it
from devolving into a simple chase scene. In fact, Moore uses the grittiness
and the realities that would be faced by vampires in the city to evoke
laughs as well as sympathy. And he's got some neat tricks up his sleeve
with regards to keeping us sympathetic to all his characters. 'Bloodsucking
Freaks' is a simple vampire love story with the sort of grace notes that
make you forget all the skill that has gone into its creation. Moore's
world of the supernatural is not all grins and chuckles. There are enough
dark moments in here to make the threats seem real and the responses
seem reasonable. Ultimately, however, it is the sweet, positive nature
of Moore's writing that prevails. We like his characters so much that
when they do die, we hope they rise again.